A FATHER has been hailed a hero after he rescued his son and two young boys from icy water when they got into difficulties while swimming in dangerous currents.
However, James O'Reilly (38) tragically died during his desperate attempt to rescue the third boy, who was eventually brought to safety by the RNLI.
Mr O'Reilly left Dublin on Friday with his 14-year-old son and 16 members of Navan Road United Football Club for a weekend trip. But tragedy struck shortly after 12.40pm on Saturday in the holiday village of Courtown in Co Wexford when three 14-year-old boys went for a swim in the mouth of the harbour.
James bravely dived in to the icy waters when the strong currents started to sweep one of the teenagers out to sea. It is understood he managed to rescue his son and another boy, but got into difficulty while attempting to rescue the third child.
Children who had made the trip watched on in horror as he frantically attempted to return to shore. Mr O'Reilly, who managed the U-15 boys team, had travelled to the popular north Wexford seaside resort with five adults and 11 children.
The construction worker had lived on the Navan Road with his partner Caroline Cowell, and started getting involved with club activities after his son joined the DDSL side three years ago.
"The three lads got into a bit of difficulty and he jumped in and basically saved their lives and lost his own life in the process," explained Sonia Lowe, secretary of Navan Road United Football Club.
"Boys being boys, there was water and they jumped in. They obviously got into a bit of difficulty and that's when James jumped in and came to the rescue.
"The currents were very bad around the harbour and obviously they didn't realise what they were getting into."
Mr O'Reilly was taken to Waterford Regional Hospital where a post-mortem took place.
The RNLI's Sea Safari charter boat was first on the scene, and all four people in the water were taken from the sea. The lifeboat then arrived and the victim was taken aboard where the crew tried to resuscitate him.
A local doctor who had noticed the commotion also came to his aid, while his friends anxiously waited for paramedic services to arrive.
A rescue helicopter, along with two ambulances and gardai, arrived soon after. The teenagers were treated for hypothermia and shock, but did not suffer any serious injury.